Put, a yes-no question is one that only needs a yes-no answer. There are two possible answers, so they’re considered closed questions. You can give a little more information if you like, but it’s not necessary. For example:

  • Have you done the shopping?
  • Do you keep ketchup in the fridge?
  • Does your cat like to eat mice?
  • Can you give me your cake recipe?
  • Have you finished your homework?

Two of these questions can be answered: “yes” or “no.” For example, if your cat tried eating a mouse once but didn’t care much for it, the answer is still “no.” There’s the option of saying a little more, but you don’t have to.

Yes-no questions are the opposite of open-ended questions, which usually start with the five Ws:

  • Where do you typically do the shopping?
  • Who keeps ketchup in the fridge?
  • Which animals like to eat mice?
  • What’s the secret ingredient in your cake recipe?

Can you see the difference? You might only give a short, one-word answer to these questions, but you have a lot of solutions to choose from. For instance, the secret ingredient in someone’s cake recipe could be anything, but presumably, it’s something tasty.

Of course, nothing in English is ever that easy. There are some cases where a question could be either yes-no or otherwise, depending on how you interpret it. Here’s an example:

  • Does your mum or dad do the shopping?

It is what’s known as an alternative question, and they’re a bit of a sticking point as far as this topic is concerned, but maybe it’s best to leave them to linguists (at least for now).

Yes-no questions and speech therapy

Great. So now you know the yes-no question, you might wonder how they’re used in the classroom. To this end, they’re often used as part of speech therapy exercises. So answering yes-no questions is an excellent step to help children with their speech and language development.

The words “yes” and “no” are among the most powerful in English; they allow us to talk about wants, wishes, and much more. A good grasp of yes-no questions can open up a world of possibilities.

At the start, children might be unable to vocalize “yes” or “no,” so answering yes-no questions will likely involve a nod or shake. However, the questions will also be a little simpler at the start. That’s because the person asking them needs to know the answers already, which means they can tell if the child is responding correctly.

As you might imagine, this can be a little tricky, especially regarding personal questions. To get around this, speech-language therapists will spend time with parents or carers, giving them a better idea of the child’s likes and dislikes.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that children might not want to answer many questions at first, so it might be better to focus on their interests.

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